Climate change is killing our birds. What can we do?


Almost two-thirds of North American birds studied will go extinct if global warming hits 3 degrees Celsius (5.4˚F), a new report from the National Audubon Society finds.

In Maine, changes in climate and habitat are expected to make more than half of Maine's 230 bird species vulnerable to population declines and local extinction. More species could end up breeding in the tundra, and much of the rest of Canada could see an increased variety of birds fleeing southern habitats that had become too warm. Climate change will further exacerbate the challenges birds are already facing from human activity.

While some species are predicted to die due to rising temperatures, other birds that thrive in warmer, southern climates will relocate to northern locales, a move already underway, Bateman said.

"We are in the midst of a bird emergency", Audubon's Chief Executive David Yarnold said at a news briefing.

The report also included climate modeling based on the 2014 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fifth Assessment Report, on what would happen to species at 1.5, 2 and 3 degrees Celsius of warming, and localized impacts of Earth's changing climate in the form of sea-level rise, urbanization, cropland expansion, extreme weather, fire, heavy rain, drought, false springs and lake level changes.

Last month, the journal Science published a study by a joint team of conservation biologists describing a grim picture: a steady decline of almost three billion North American birds since 1970, primarily as a result of human activities.

Steven Price, president of Bird Studies Canada, said the report shows the looming impact of climate change on bird life across a complex and intertwined series of environmental effects.

Loss of habitat or food, harsh weather conditions and rising sea levels are among the effects of climate change that would force ME birds to move farther north, reduce the size of their range and shrink their population, said Jeff Wells, vice president of Boreal Conservation at National Audubon.

"What this means for birds is that plants and the insects that live on them that they're expecting to find when they migrate, aren't there", Bonner said. "Those loons are what drive my work today and I can't imagine them leaving the USA entirely in summer but that's what we're facing if trends continue".

"(The loon's) range is going to completely shift out of the United States with climate change", Bateman says.

"We already know what we need to do to reduce global warming, and we already have a lot of the tools we need to take those steps". "Now, what we need are more people committed to making sure those solutions are put into practice".

Renee Stone, vice president of climate for the National Audubon Society, called on elected officials to treat climate change as a priority going forward. "Audubon is committed to protecting the places birds need now and in the future and taking action to address the root causes of climate change".